4th Mar, 2021 19:00

Modern & Contemporary Art

Lot 55
Lot 55 - Robert Hodgins|South African 1920–2010|Songs my mother taught me


Robert Hodgins|South African 1920–2010|Songs my mother taught me
oil on canvas| signed, dated and inscribed with the title on the reverse|circa 1983


Sold for R527,625
Estimated at R450,000 - R550,000




81 x 61.5 cm; Framed size: 85 x 65.5 x 4 cm


Songs my mother taught me is a song for voice and piano written in 1880 by Antonín Dvořák, the Czech composer of Romantic music. It is the fourth of seven songs from his cycle Gypsy Songs. Passionate about his homeland and its traditional music, he often employed the rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia into his music. Its bittersweet melodies evoke memories of times when mothers might have sung to us to lull us to sleep, or perhaps sung to express their own joys, or to mitigate life’s sorrows. A mother, dressed in a colourful shift—as timeless in the flapper era as it would have been in Mary Quant’s 60s, or even today—observes a boy, engaging in different activities— skipping, twirling a hoop and balancing on a high wire which is simultaneously the string of a bright kite that swirls across the sky: a line that is both dangerous and playful. The likelihood that this is an autobiographical work is very compelling. Robert Hodgins was a great painter, able to turn the stuff of ordinary life into art and poetry – which is why he is so beloved. Born just after the first World War, to a single mother, Hodgins would have had a tough life were it not for his indomitable spirit, great intelligence and compassion, and his love of art, literature, theatre and music which enrich his paintings and make them so seductive. Here he manages to create a playful scene which—at the same time—suggests that each is isolated in their own activities and reveries. Much as we might try to protect our loved ones, we will inevitably have to trust that they can make their many and various ways in the world. The painting predates Marlon Brando’s autobiography of the same title which, one cannot help thinking, would have delighted the artist.

Emma Bedford

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Auction: Modern & Contemporary Art, 4th Mar, 2021

Aspire Art Auctions’ Cape Town sale proved that the market for African and international art continues to thrive despite the pandemic.

The top lot by value was Irma Stern’s Dahlias and fruit, one of the most outstanding paintings from her late period, which achieved an impressive R5,234,800. Marlene Dumas scored a sensational hit when her early painting, Score, sold for R3,414,000, and stellar results were also achieved for celebrated artists; William Kentridge, George Pemba, Gerard Sekoto and Peter Clarke, amongst others, with world records at auction set for contemporary artists Turiya Magadlela and Gerhard Marx.

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